Despite votes, Ukraine bill not done yet

While both the House and Senate passed Ukraine aid bills Thursday, Congress is not yet done with the legislation.

The House and Senate passed similar but not identical bills Thursday, which means they can't send a bill to the White House just yet.

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As a first step, the House is expected to approve the Senate-passed version. The Senate approved a substitute amendment Thursday that provides loan guarantees for Ukraine, spends millions to promote democracy and security in the country and sanctions Russian officials who threaten its sovereignty.

The House bill is largely similar, and the House could pass the Senate bill by unanimous consent as early as Friday morning, when members return for a brief pro forma session.

On Thursday, House leaders made a controversial decision to voice vote approve a Medicare physician payment bill, which led to complaints from furious Republicans about the process. But passing the Ukraine bill by unanimous consent on Friday should be far less controversial, as the House passed similar legislation 399-19 Thursday.

Once the House accepts the Senate bill, that legislation can be sent to the White House for President Obama's signature.

However, the Senate is also expected to take an additional step in the coming days. Specifically, the House bill includes a section that would spend $10 million on Radio Free Europe and Voice of America programming to Ukraine and neighboring countries — language that is not in the Senate bill.

Sources close to the process say the Senate is expected to quickly pass a smaller bill that includes this language.

The broadcasting language is found in Section 103 of the House-passed bill, H.R. 4278. That language finds that Russia has blocked Ukraine's access to uncensored news, and has seized more than five television stations in Crimea to broadcast "propaganda" supporting Russia.

The language says funding other programming would "combat this anti-democratic propaganda."

The House language called for a constant stream of new programming into Ukraine in the various languages of the regions. It also calls for a report to Congress on the implementation of this plan 15 days after the language becomes law.

If the Senate takes up a smaller bill on broadcasting, the House would also have to follow suit and pass it before it becomes law.